I am Jeroen Linssen, a PhD candidate working on interactive storytelling. Before joining the Human Media Interaction department, I completed both a Bachelor and a Master in Cognitive Artificial Intelligence at Utrecht University. What distinguished these from other Artificial Intelligence studies was their multidisciplinary nature: they brought together knowledge from four areas, namely computer science, psychology, linguistics and philosophy. I liked this approach to Artificial Intelligence as it enabled me to look at various systems and problems from different angles.
During my Master’s, I focused more on logic and intelligent systems, completing courses on reasoning and agents. For my Master’s thesis, I worked on a serious game called Code Red: Triage, which was developed in the GATE project. I developed and implemented a form of adaptive difficulty so that the game would suit the player’s skill.
Having completed my studies, I came upon an opportunity to combine my experience in both logic and serious games, namely by doing PhD research on intelligent characters for a serious game.
I have always been an avid reader, enjoying the multitude of stories that exist. Simultaneously, I take pleasure in playing games with rich stories, particularly those that provide the possibility to let the player affect the course of the story. However, current implementations of interactive storytelling are fairly limited. In most of these, the player follows a linear portion of the story until he or she reaches a certain point at which he or she chooses option A or B and the story again continues in a linear fashion based on that choice. While this approach certainly allows for an enjoyable experience, I strive to move beyond it.
Therefore, I aim to develop, implement and evaluate a method that provides players of a serious game with more freedom. My research is part of the Dutch COMMIT project Interaction for Universal Access, which focuses on social interaction. In this serious game, players need to become more aware of their social behaviour by interacting with various virtual characters. Accordingly, players need sufficient freedom to interact with the characters in a natural manner. However, improving social awareness is vital to the game and consequently, I aim to limit the players’ freedom again to guide them so that they will be able to become more socially aware.
My research revolves around the concept of out-of-character reasoning, which is taken from improvisational theatre. In this form of theatre, actors improvise actions and events while they are acting out a story. I am of the opinion that virtual characters can use such an approach for storytelling as it can enable them to find the correct balance between freedom and guidance of the player.